To and From Historic Yorktown, VA
By Bob Tagert
To and From Historic Yorktown, VA
This month’s road trip covers a lot of miles as well as great places to stop. We had to go to Williamsburg, Virginia to conduct R&D for the Business Profile about Copper Fox Distillery in this issue so we incorporated a circular trip south that carried us through Yorktown, a beautiful historic town straight out of a storybook. But first we needed to get south.
We began our trip by taking Maryland Route 5 south to Waldorf where it turns into Route 301. After crossing the Potomac River Bridge into Virginia we proceeded to Route 3 south into King George County. Our first stop was at Ingleside Winery to see if our friend and owner Doug Flemer was at work on this Saturday. We were in luck as we found him walking through the beautiful courtyard that this winery is known for. Years ago when we hosted the annual Old Town Cup sailboat race, Ingleside was our wine sponsor. Great wines at a good price.
Since we were on a time frame to reach Williamsburg, I will only mention the attractions along the way as we did not have the time to stop and explore. Westmoreland State Park is located on the Potomac River’s Northern Neck. The park offers many opportunities for family fun including an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and adjacent bathhouse, meeting area, snack bar, camp store and power boat ramp. You will also find a visitors center, campgrounds, cabins, a playground, fishing pier, boat rentals and 6 miles of hiking trails.
Six miles south from Westmoreland State Park is the town of Montross, home to the George Washington Birthplace National Monument and Stratford Hall Plantation. Continuing south on Route 3 you will come to Warsaw, a town of unique history. A former plantation, Belle Mount is currently operated as a vineyard and winery within a few miles of Warsaw town limits.
Before crossing the Rappahannock River you will come to the bustling town of Kilmarnock. Route 3 passes through the middle of town and continues on to White Stone, a small town before the bridge that has really great gas prices – $1.86 per gallon.
Crossing over the Rappahannock River we continued to Route 17 to Saluda then picked up route 33 to 14 to West Point where we crossed the York River. From there we picked our way along back roads to I-64 towards Williamsburg. From there we took exit 238 and Copper Fox Distillery is about a mile down the road.
From Copper Fox we picked up the scenic Colonial National Historic Parkway toward Yorktown. The parkway runs along the shore line of the York River, across ponds and scenic overlooks.
Before we reached the York River we turned right into Yorktown. The first thing you will notice is how clean and freshly painted everything looks. Historic buildings now house museums, restaurants and small inns. It is just stunning.
The town is most famous as the site of the siege and subsequent surrender of General Charles Cornwallis to General George Washington and the French Fleet during the American Revolutionary War on October 19, 1781. Although the war would last for another year, this British defeat at Yorktown was the beginning of the end of the war. Yorktown also figured prominently in the American Civil War serving as a major port to supply both northern and southern towns, depending upon who held Yorktown at the time.
Today, Yorktown is one of three sites of the Historic Triangle, which also includes Jamestown and Williamsburg as important colonial-era settlements. It is the eastern terminus of the Colonia Parkway connecting these locations. Yorktown is also the eastern terminus of the TransAmerican Trail, a bicycle touring route created by the Adventure Cycling Association.
Today Yorktown has become a popular destination for heritage tourism. Yorktown has distinct areas. Yorktown Village or Historic Yorktown is located close to the York River, near the George P. Coleman Memorial Bridge that spans the river to Gloucester Point. Historic Yorktown is comprised first of Water Street, a small strip along the beach of the river: it contains several small restaurants, a park, a hotel, a pier and an antiques shop. In May 2005a building was constructed with more shops and restaurants, enhancing what is known as the “Riverwalk” section on the waterfront. You can even step back in history when you join the crew of the Yorktown Schooner Alliance.
Main Street is located on a bluff above the floodplain. Architecture in this area is almost exclusively original to the colonial era. Nine buildings, including the circa-1730 Nelson House and Somerwell House, survive from the pre-Revolutionary period. The old courthouse, several small shops, the Nelson House and the Yorktown Monument are located along this road. Around the center of town are residential streets. Grace Church, situated on Church Street near the old courthouse, is noted for its architecture.
Yorktown and the nearby area are significant to the early history of the United States. Colonial National Historic Park, which contains and preserves Yorktown National Battlefield and Yorktown National Cemetery, is located on the outskirts of town. The battlefield has many of the earthworks dug by the besieging American and French forces.
As we bid farewell to Yorktown we crossed the bridge heading to Gloucester Point. Route 17 is a heavily traveled road and we soon came upon strip malls as we passed through the remote towns. We eventually came to the Town of Gloucester. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay but this place was once the capital of the Native American Powhatan Confederacy. Today, Cloucester County is a treasure trove of historic sites and offers a slower pace of life. Look for this town in a future Road Trip destination.
From here we stayed on Route 17 back to Saluda and across the Rappahannock River to retrace our steps up Route 3. It was on this part of the trip that nostalgia set in. Years ago I berthed my sailboat at Tall Timbers Marina in Maryland. Directly across the Potomac River was Coles Point. There were many times we would sail over to Coles Point and relax at the restaurant. We were now only about a half hour from Coles Point by land and decided to take a visit. On the way we stopped at the Hague Winery for a bottle of their signature Chardonel white wine. It was a good break.
Arriving at Coles Point it looked pretty much the same since I last saw it. Some years back local Alexandrian Taylor Burke and a friend bought the property and began to spruce it up. Floating docks were added as well as some covered slips. The restaurant was remodeled and local Alexandrian restaurateur Troy Clayton brought the restaurant back to life and called it The Landing. I remembered he had a saying on the wall…”All who wander, are not lost.” This is the way I felt at that moment. It was like coming home.
Today the restaurant is run by the local icon Tim’s Rivershore group and is called Tim’s at Coles Point. This would be our last stop before returning home, but it was hard to pull away from all of those memories. Enjoying rum drinks and a platter of steamed shrimp and snow crab legs and a side of hush puppies made for an enjoyable respite. Gazing out across the river in the direction of Tall Timbers brought back fond memories of sailing or boating over to Coles Point with friends many, many years ago. “What the hell, one more rum and then we will go!”
As we worked our way back to Route 3 we came upon one of the many roadside farm stands, however, this one was absent of any personnel. The sign simply said, “Leave your money in the red box!” We purchased a few items for dinner later that night and I must say, the watermelon was delicious!
As you can tell, this was a road trip that required an overnight stay. In Williamsburg there are many small motels/hotels that are reminiscent of travel 50 years ago. Clean and inexpensive.
Driving down some of these back roads is a real treat as they take you through a different time. In today’s world, that is a welcome breath of fresh air.